All across the country, public servants, both elected and appointed, are inventing ever more creative ways to avoid having their work products inspected. One suspects they hold “workshops” on the topic at their various “professional” conferences.
FOIA requests, which in Georgia are referred to as GORA requests persuant to the Georgia Open Records Act, are not appreciated. Although almost every budget request for Information Technology “improvements” is premised on the promise of making information more readily accessible and reduce red tape, that is not the end result. Information is power and power is what our petty potentates guard jealously.
That the people govern is not readily accepted. After all “representative government” is really but a vestige of in loco parentis in disguise.
So, herewith I provide an example to make a record. If the message does not register, eventually it will be necessary to resort to legal action.
Subject: Stefanie Leif’s Response to Open Records Request ORR#321525
Dear Mr. Kent:
As Glynn County’s designated open records officer, please acknowledge your receipt of the following message to Stefanie Leif which I have copied to her.
Please consider this a formal complaint that Ms. Leif has failed to provide readily available documents, a description of other relevant documents that exist but are not available for production within three day, and a timeline for the provision of those other relevant documents under the provisions of section 50-18-71 (b)(1)(A) the Georgia Open Records Act , which I quote in the final paragraph of my message to her, below.
Further, please consider this a formal request under the provisions of section 50-18-71 (b)(1)(A) of the Georgia Open Records Act that I be provided copies of or access to those readily available documents AND a “description of such records [that exist but are not available within three days] and a timeline for when the records will be available for inspection or copying”.
Given that more than three business days have elapsed since my initial GORA request on June 7th, I request that the those readily available documents AND a “description of such records [that exist but are not available within three days] and a timeline for when the records will be available for inspection or copying” be provided no later than noon on Friday, June 15th. In other words, I am giving you one and a half business days to provide what should have been provided yesterday. If you do not consider that a reasonable request, please provide me with what you consider a timeline for the provision or inspection of documents no later than the close of business today.
———————————————my message to Ms. Leif:
Dear Ms. Leif:
Thank you for beating the “three business days” deadline for responding to my June 7th GORA request by sixteen minutes by way of the email below. Because I suspected, on the basis of prior delaying tactics by others responsible for providing documents, that you or others would let the clock run out, I was present in the Pate Building when you sent that message and was thus able to meet briefly with you in order to confirm I would pay whatever costs are associated with provision of paper copies of the documents I requested.
In your written statement, you indicated that “the County will process your request, and the documents will be available for your inspection within five (5) business days of the date of the receipt of” confirmation that I was willing to pay for the costs of locating and copying the documents.
Apparently, you had not read the final sentence in my formal GORA request to Mr. Kent, which he should have forward to you and other responsive parties: “Finally, please understand that I respectfully request provision of these documents no later than the close of business on Tuesday, June 12th, at which time I will present myself at your office or elsewhere at your direction in the Pate building to pay for any and all costs related to this request.”
When we spoke shortly before the close of business yesterday, you indicated you would not provide ANY documents UNTIL five full business days had passed following the confirmation you requested in your email to me, the confirmation I gave you while offering to pay in advance. That is, although your email indicated the documents would be provided WITHIN five business days, you told me that you would take all five day.
If you persist in arbitrarily withholding production of documents until shortly before five PM on Tuesday, June 19th, that means I will not receive these documents until AFTER the joint meeting of the Mainland and Islands Planning Commissions at the Sea Palms Resort on Saint Simons Island at 2:00 PM on that day. As a member of the public who plans to speak at the two public hearings at this meeting, I am requesting a more timely provision of relevant documents.
Please understand that you could have and should have provided me with relevant documents within three working days under the provisions of section 50-18-71 (b)(1)(A) of the Georgia Open Records Act:
“Agencies shall produce for inspection all records responsive to a request within a reasonable amount of time NOT TO EXCEED THREE BUSINESS DAYS [my emphasis] of receipt of a request; provided, however, that nothing in this chapter shall require agencies to produce records in response to a request if such records did not exist at the time of the request. In those instances where some, but not all, records are available within three business days, an agency shall make available within that period those records that can be located and produced. In any instance where records are unavailable within three business days of receipt of the request, and responsive records exist, the agency shall, within such time period, provide the requester with a description of such records and a timeline for when the records will be available for inspection or copying and provide the responsive records or access thereto as soon as practicable.”
If you were unaware of these provisions of the Georgia Open Records Act, I hope and trust you will now act appropriately in a timely fashion.
On Jun 12, 2018, at 4:44 PM, Stefanie Leif
In response to your Open Records Request dated June 7, 2018, the County has responsive documents. The estimated number of pages is 200, and the estimated staff time to retrieve and copy the documents is four (4) hours. The total estimate is $64.00 ($44.00 for staff time and $20.00 for copying charges). If you prefer to receive the responsive documents electronically, the charge will include the staff time for retrieval and the charge of a flash drive or CD (if applicable). If you confirm to paying this amount, please respond to this email. Once a response has been received, the County will process your request, and the documents will be available for your inspection within five (5) business days of the date of the receipt of your confirmation.
Stefanie M. Leif, AICP
Community Development Dept.
Glynn County Board of Commissioners
W. Harold Pate Building
1725 Reynolds Street, Second Floor
Brunswick, GA 31520